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Don Reno Interviewed by Pete Wernick at Fincastle with 1965

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Jan 8, 2020 - 7:10:35 PM
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5399 posts since 10/13/2007

I had not seen or heard this before. Very Very interesting. Says he beat Earl to "the style".


Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 01/08/2020 19:13:19

Jan 8, 2020 - 7:48:16 PM
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12537 posts since 10/30/2008

Wow, what a poised, confident speaker Don was! Almost no "uhh, uhh" like you hear so many supposedly sophisticated people using.

I've heard another interview done years later at a New Jersey festival where's he's asked about having the first shot with Monroe and he said "when I got home from the service I turned on the Grand Ole Opry and what did I hear but the GOLDEN TONES of Earl Scruggs". I guess he had a thing about Earl's tone!

As far as being "first", he may have been first that Monroe heard, but I always understood he and Earl both "chased" Snuffy to study on him. I'm happy to say they developed their Snuffy-style incidentally at the same time. According to other partisans Johnny Whisnant was "first". I really don't care who claims that honor.

Monroe himself was well aware of Snuffy's style, having played throughout the Carolinas with Brother Charlie in the 1930s and repeatedly crossing paths/competing with Snuffy in whatever band he was in. Having a couple of young hot shots like Don and Earl show up unexpectedly was probably a welcome development for him since he couldn't/wouldn't get Snuffy.

Jan 8, 2020 - 7:55:03 PM



46646 posts since 10/5/2013
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Nice interview. Wernick in a blog mentioned that Monroe always called Scruggs’ playing as “Snuffy Jenkins style”. Like Johnny Whisnant pre-dating Scruggs and Reno, so did Carroll Best pre-date the parallel developments of Thompson and Keith.

Jan 9, 2020 - 5:52:49 AM
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367 posts since 8/3/2004

When I started learning three-finger style in 1961, there was heated discussion about whether Scruggs or Reno came first with the style. Two or three years later the same kind of discussion developed about whether Keith or Thompson was first to play melodic style, long before we knew of Carroll Best. This kind of analysis remains of interest to some of us (e.g., see my BHO blog, in which I comment on Thomas Goldsmith’s recent book about Foggy Mountain Breakdown). FWIW, it seems evident that Snuffy Jenkins influenced both Scruggs and Reno, and he in turn learned from Smith Hammett and Rex Brooks. Jenkins stated the he did not develop the style, that it had been around for a long time, and we know that there were a number of three-finger players in North Carolina before Scruggs and Reno (including Johnnie Whisnant, as mentioned by Dick Bowden), although none were playing with Scruggs’s sophistication.

Debating this and related issues will not cure cancer, solve climate change, or bring peace to the Middle East, but it is fun.

Jan 9, 2020 - 6:57:28 AM
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12537 posts since 10/30/2008

I think the discussion is worthwhile if it gets even a handful of today's banjo pickers to GO BACK and listen to the recordings of Snuffy and Don (and early Earl with Monroe). Not to take one thing away from Earl, no sir! But to show "where this all came from". If nothing else, it helps one appreciate the growth and sophistication of "the style" over the decades. And, perhaps, the degeneration (in some cases).

Jan 9, 2020 - 6:59:49 AM

274 posts since 2/26/2012

The man and his banjo

Jan 9, 2020 - 10:36:18 AM

12537 posts since 10/30/2008

Oh I wish someone would post some film/video of Reno & Harrell in the early days with Buck Ryan fiddling and either Jerry McCoury or Ed Boom-Boom Ferris on bass. They were ALL hotter than firecrackers. Each one trying to out-gun the next. I saw them about 1966-67 when I was a teenager and it was RIVETING. Really really exciting stuff. Don was grinning like a Cheshire cat the entire show.

Bill and Buck really gave Don a kick in the pants about "turning it on brother!"

Jan 9, 2020 - 1:46:54 PM

274 posts since 2/26/2012

On you tube you can find many videos of Reno and the Tenneesse cut ups

Perhaps if you look a few hours you can find that video you are looking for.

Jan 9, 2020 - 1:57:39 PM
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12537 posts since 10/30/2008

This video of a Porter Waggoner show gives a slight idea of how "hot" they could come across. No Buck Ryan, sadly, but Aunt George Shuffler on the bass fiddle gives an added lift. Watch all the way to the end to see how Reno would "cut up".

His vamp in the key of open F on the first song is just stunning.

This one was filmed by Mike Seeger in 1974 and shows a little of the hot aspect of their show with Buck Ryan fiddling.   They appear different times throughout the film.   Also Country Gentlemen with Bill Emerson, and Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 01/09/2020 14:05:22

Jan 9, 2020 - 2:10:32 PM
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4056 posts since 6/15/2005

Don played with such exuberance!   

Listen to Don and Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith tear through "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" - and pay attention at 1:25, in the middle of Don's first full break, as Arthur says, "Aw, play it Earl, play it!"

Pete Wernick's interview with Reno appears verbatim in Thomas Goldsmith's book, "The Bluegrass Reader," at p. 54.

Edited by - arnie fleischer on 01/09/2020 14:18:25

Jan 10, 2020 - 12:49:36 PM
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1933 posts since 1/10/2004

First-schmirst. Earl refined it and made it famous.

But I love some Don Reno.

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